August is National Immunization Month. The HPV vaccine is an important immunization that helps protect against cancer and genital warts. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STD in the United States. There are over 150 types of HPV. Most of the time HPV goes away on its own, but some types can cause cancer in both boys and girls and other types cause genital warts.
There is no test for HPV but people born with female reproductive organs can have a pap smear that will look for possible cervical cancer and a doctor can diagnose genital warts. The HPV vaccine, sometimes referred to by one of the brand names - Gardasil, helps protect against the most common strains that cause cervical cancer and genital warts.
Who should get the vaccine?
It is recommended that girls and boys starting at 11 or 12 receive the HPV vaccine. However, if you have not yet received it, it is recommended that girls receive the vaccine before age of 26 and boys before the age of 21. The vaccine is most effective if someone has not yet been exposed to HPV, so it is recommended that people receive the vaccine before they start having sex. Although this is a best practice, you can and still should get the vaccine even if you are already sexually active.
How much will the vaccine cost?
For most teens the vaccine will be FREE! It is covered under most insurance plans and there are programs available for those who are uninsured or unable to pay. To find out what options are available for you, contact your doctor or visit a clinic near you.
How do I get the vaccine?
The HPV vaccine is given in two or three shots over a six month period of time. It is important to return to your doctor or clinic to get all of the recommended doses. They will tell you when to come back. In order to get the vaccine, you may need to make an appointment with your doctor or clinic.
Do I need my parent’s permission to get the HPV vaccine? Will they find out if I get it?
The HPV vaccine is considered a confidential service which means teens are able to get the vaccine without their parent’s permission and without their parents finding out. To share some info with your parents about the HPV vaccine, and some tips on how to talk about potentially sensitive topics with you, check out and share this link with your parents or other trusted adult in your life: www.talkwithyourkids.org